Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Stefan has built upon his sophisticated, thriving practice by providing an array of minimally invasive options that offer maximum results for the face and body
by Bill Donahue

In the dynamic and ever-changing world of cosmetic self-improvement, Michael Stefan, M.D., has proven himself to be not only incredibly skilled but also increasingly adaptable. He is a double-board-certified, world-class plastic surgeon, yet he has also become one of the region’s foremost physicians specializing in minimally invasive aesthetic procedures.

But what exactly does “minimally invasive” mean? According to Dr. Stefan, a minimally invasive procedure is one that provides the maximum benefit in terms of face and body rejuvenation, with minimal recovery time, but without exposing the patient to the risks of the operating room. This could mean providing a “liquid facelift” using some of the various kinds of injectable dermal fillers to add youthful volume to different areas of the face. Or it could mean cutting-edge laser treatments that stimulate new collagen growth as a means of creating visual skin improvement. Or it could mean nonsurgical fat reduction using an FDA-cleared technology called CoolSculpting, which can be used to reduce fat in a number of areas in a safe, effective and nearly painless manner.

Regardless of the type of a procedure a patient seeks, Dr. Stefan keep the patient’s well-being at the forefront. He has cultivated a cycle of care and safety in his 3,000-square-foot Exton-based practice, guided by his experience as a surgeon who is double board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Stefan spends with an hour with each patient during their first encounter, and he often suggests additional consultations, to make sure the patient understands the efficacy and duration of each available option. From there, the patient will know exactly what to expect before making a decision regarding treatment.

We spoke with Dr. Stefan about the cycle of care and the evolution of aesthetic medicine. He also talked about how the combination of these two factors has made him “the go-to guy” for reshaping and revitalizing his patients’ lives, all without the use of general anesthesia.

Q: How has aesthetic medicine evolved in recent years?
A: The industry has been steadily going toward minimally invasive procedures. Many patients start at our office at an earlier age—some for breast enhancement, some for small facial procedures to lift the cheek to a more youthful position—and over the years they’re coming back in for continuing maintenance therapy. We’re seeing a trend toward these micro-invasive and minimally invasive procedures, extending from the head and neck, and down through the body. Every procedure requires a little bit of a recovery period, but the recovery for minimally invasive procedures is much less significant. In addition, the economics of aesthetic surgery are in line with the needs of the cost-sensitive consumer, and we try to minimize those costs without affecting efficacy of the procedures.

This trend is not unique to the United States. As a member of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, I’ve discovered that the new paradigm of aesthetic plastic surgery extends globally, with maturing countries such as China, Japan and Australia now following the same dictums the U.S. is following. It’s here to stay, it works, and we’re starting to see it replace some of the older modalities that have been in place for the last 34 years. This is defined as a new era of plastic surgery.

What are some examples of these minimally invasive procedures you’re talking about?

One would be injectable fillers. There are many different kinds of injectable fillers, and each type of filler is meant for a different depth of the skin; some are meant to augment the lips while others are used as scaffolding for deeper levels of skin, with new collagen formation—or neocollagenesis—in the deeper tissue plane for visible skin improvement. It’s up to the physician to know which product is best for each patient and how much should be injected. Essentially, it’s a liquid facelift, and it’s considered one of the signature procedures of this new era. I’ve done countless facelifts over the years, and I’ve learned that it takes as much skill to do a liquid facelift as it does to do a regular facelift. Because I’m a surgeon, I can also do nerve blocks on the patient so no pain is felt.

Also, because of a treatment called CoolSculpting, I’ve essentially stopped doing liposuction in the OR. The technology behind CoolSculpting was invented 20 years ago by researchers affiliated with Harvard University. The CoolSculpting has multiple suction heads that are placed on a part of the body. The suction heads freeze the targeted fat and causes apoptosis, meaning the cold kills the fat cells, but without harming the surrounding tissues. The fat is eliminated from the body in a purely safe fashion, and the optimal result is seen in 60 to 90 days. The procedure takes one hour per anatomical area, there’s virtually no discomfort, and there are no potential complications that you might have had from going to the OR for liposuction.

We have a state-of-the-art CoolSculpting room that is fully dedicated to this procedure. Both I and my R.N. have been to California to be trained at the CoolSculpting center, so I have good clinical knowledge for treating candidates of the procedure, which in general is someone who has minor to moderate excess fat. There are few contraindications, other than pregnancy, and there has been a continued increase in the number of areas of the body that have been FDA approved for treatment. CoolSculpting is essentially why I have decided to put down the suction cannula that is used in traditional liposuction.

How do you determine which technologies or procedures to adopt into your practice?
Each time I consider adding a new machine or treatment, I look for something that is both versatile and efficacious in its intended uses. Safety is always my first consideration. We don’t do anything that cuts corners in any fashion. There is a culture of safety that pervades our office and protects our patients, starting with the first phone call to the final evaluation of treatment. It is incumbent upon the physician to know who is at risk, which is why we have this culture of safety. When a woman walks into our office, she wants to look more beautiful or more refreshed, but she also wants to know she will be well taken care of.

What are your thoughts on why minimally invasive procedures have become so popular compared with traditional surgery?

There are some patients who still need surgeries that must be performed in the OR, but we have arrived at a crossroads. Because of these minimally invasive techniques we have been talking about, we are now able to minimize a patient’s pain and recovery, while providing an extremely high level of satisfaction without breaking the bank. These minimally invasive procedures offer tremendous safety and efficacy, and the patient-satisfaction levels are great.

What my practice does is improve upon a patient’s self-confidence. We all have something that bothers us, and our job is to help you address it. Although we’re seeing growth in virtually all aspects of the industry, minimally invasive procedures are far outweighing the larger, more involved surgeries. The trend today is to start early in life with minor tweaking, which then increases in the 40s and 50s. The old way was to age till you’re 50 or 60 and then have a major procedure. That’s not the way things are happening today. Now we’re catering to each decade of life.

Michael Stefan, M.D., Plastic Surgeon
The Commons at Oaklands
730 W. Lincoln Highway
Exton, PA 19341
610-873-7200 | www.michaelstefanmd.com

Photograph by Jody Robinson